British Prime Minister David Cameron was caught on camera calling Afghanistan and Nigeria “fantastically corrupt”, leading to embarrassment and accusations of hypocrisy, a day ahead of a global summit against corruption and tax evasion.
The summit, called a year ago, acquired new significance after the Panana Papers revealed the global rich using tax havens to store their money, including in British overseas territories such as the British Virgin Iislands.
The opposition Labour party said a Conservative government "hosting an anti-corruption summit is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop." Cameron was also accused of hypocrisy after recently admitting to benefiting from an offshore account.
India will be represented at the summit by chief vigilance commissioner, K V Chowdary.
Jayati Ghosh from Jawaharlal Nehru University will be joined by 300 economists from across the world to agree on new rules to force companies to report taxable activities in every country.
"The government is refusing to take meaningful action to close Britain's constellation of tax havens, which together constitute the largest financial secrecy network in the world," said shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson called on Cameron to take immediate action to tackle corruption and tax-evasion, but added: “He must also recognise that the UK has a responsibility to help its overseas territories end their dependency on the financial services industry”.
“David Cameron has said he won’t call on UK territories to publish a register of beneficial ownership despite earlier promises to do so. He needs to change his mind and fulfil those promises because tax avoidance will continue to thrive until the mask of anonymity that allows the owners of assets to disguise their identities has been removed.”
Asking Cameron “to look closer to home”, The Guardian said in an editorial on Wednesday: “The prime minister is not personally corrupt – but he is certainly guilty of epic hypocrisy. So, for that matter, are Britain and the west”.
“They have spent decades ordering poor countries and failed states to sort out their problems with dodgy money, even while taking much of that dodgy money and ploughing it through their banks, their ritzy stores, their estate agents, and their offshore tax havens – with barely any questions asked or eyebrows raised”, it added.